Thursday, October 15, 2015

Depression Doesn't Look Like Eeyore



So this post has been in my drafts for months now. I wrote it during the summer but didn’t feel like I was ready to put it up on the blog. Then today as I was driving to drop my kids off at school local DJ’s were talking about something on the radio that caught my attention. I heard one of the DJ’s speak about someone was checking themselves into treatment for postpartum depression (later found out this is Hayden Panettiere) and in not so many words stated that he thought she should just suck it up and keep being a mom. He felt that her checking into a facility to get help for her depression was somehow a cop out or selfish. There was a broader and more cohesive conversation that ensued but the attitude and comments of this young male DJ made me remember how widespread and uninformed ones feelings tend to be about mental illness and more specifically about depression. 

I have been open on this blog about my scuffles with depression and postpartum. It is something that would be easier not to have to battle but I do. Mental illness the name in and of itself always bothers me. Mental illness…sick mind…mind isn’t well…crazy person.  I don’t feel as though I am any of these things yet that is the lens with which people view you through when you are a human with depression. I was first put on anti-depressants when I was in high school and this continued much into my adult life. By all definitions I have every right to be depressed but I never wanted to be depressed and I didn’t choose to have depression.  I don’t think anyone does. Depression is like this slow stealth creeping of sadness. It rarely happens all at once. It’s more like slow drops in a tin bucket and then one day you realize that you’ve been holding this bucket for far too long and it has now become so heavy that if you don’t do something to get relief from holding it right now you will internally combust. It feels urgent and helpless and overwhelming and exhausted all at the same time. It is not something that you can just simply try harder to get it to stop. It is a constant battle between what you authentically feel and what is deemed acceptable to feel and the two are never congruent. 


For many years I accepted the societal stigma that accompanies having depression. I kept my melees to myself because embracing or talking about depression isn’t common or generally acceptable. Unapologetically owning or having open conversations about depression makes other people feel uncomfortable and act awkward.  As soon as someone obtains this fact about you a barrage of judgments and ideas fill their minds. You go from being looked at as normal to being looked at as damaged. You get this overwhelming expression of melancholy from others because of your condition. The outcry of “I am so so sorry for you” to me is just quite aggravating. The problem with “I am so so sorry for you” is that it assumes that the person feeling sorry has somehow been spared from depression and its reaches. I’m not saying that every person has depression. What I am saying is that the statistics on depression are actually kind of astounding and the chance that you or someone that you really care about is travailing from depression is highly likely. 

1 in 5 adults have experienced depression in the last year and an estimated 16 million American adults—almost 7% of the population—had at least 1 major depressive episode last year. People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience depression, but it does affect some groups of people more than others. Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression, and young adults aged 18–25 are 60% more likely to have depression than people aged 50 or older. **


1 in 5 people. Think about that for a second the next time you’re at the office or at a grocery store. 1 out of 5 of those people is dealing with depression. This attitude of “I am so so sorry for you because this is such an odd and rare anomaly” needs to shift. It needs to shift so that people dealing with depression can openly and unshamefully engage with others about their struggles in an attempt to regain control over their lives. It needs to shift so that people who are suffering in secret will have the courage to get help. It needs to shift to save the lives and souls of people who have depression. The perception just really needs to shift. 

We need to understand that depression doesn’t look like Eeyore. It looks like me and Hayden Panettiere, and Princess Diana, Jim Carrey, and Robin Williams. It looks like the lady down the street and the teller at the bank, your cousin or a teacher. Depression doesn’t discriminate. Deciding that you or the people you know are somehow exempt doesn’t bring about change or help progress this concern. Pretending like this isn't happening to people all around us doesn't help anyone. Getting caught up in the misguided judgements of "oh but she seems so normal or the "what does he have to be depressed about" aligns energy in the wrong thresholds. What we should be focusing on is how to normalize depression so that people suffering from it can come back out into the sun of life. What we can do is move away from this idea that people have to be happy and perfect all of the time and move towards this idea that living authentically is the point of it all. 

As people who live with depression we can refuse to allow others - social media, popular ideals, our families and friends - to set unrealistic expectations of what our lives should look and feel like. We can choose not to buy into this mass, false, and unrealistic imagery of what is normal. We can pass off the temptation to live a Facebook likeable life. We can choose and encourage others to live lives that are real and specific to them. We can challenge ourselves  to feel even when that feeling is sadness. We can dare to own our circumstances even if it’s disordered and embarrassing and socially uncomfortable. We can be honest with ourselves. We can attempt to live our lives in the present rather than pulling along our demons from the past. We can slough off this idea that having depression makes you damaged or less than or not normal. We can be audacious enough to own our life situations and to get help when we need it. We can embrace the fact that we all deserve and are worth feeling happy. We can accept that even though we have depression that doesn't make us sad and miserable all of the time. We can know that there are avenues to take that can help us  put down the tin bucket and regain a sense of ease in our lives. We can know that getting help doesn’t make us weak or selfish but rather brave and humble. We can know that we deserve happiness rather than perfection. We can know that depression doesn't even begin to define the totality of who we are as human beings but rather it is a small part that makes up a much greater whole. 


My life is so very far from perfect but I would rather my imperfect sideways life over a tidy perfect one any day. Because on my darkest days - the days where I sometime can’t even see that there is a path to follow - those are the days that I learn the most about life and about myself. Keeping moving forward and know that you are not alone. Dare to live a complete and present life where you experience not only the good but also the bad. Embrace your complete human experience and allow yourself to be yourself even when that looks and feels a little messy. 





 Depression Looks Like This                               Not This



To get more information about depression or to learn how to get help with your depression visit - www.nami.org or talk to your doctor to find a treatment that feels right to you.  

7 comments:

  1. This is brave and poignant. Great post.

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  2. This hits home so much. I'm so glad I found this today.

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    1. I'm so glad you stopped by. Thanks for reading!

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  3. Bravo Rachael!! Inspiring & informative!! I bet you're a fan of Brene Brown! Life is often messy! Joy is in the middle of it all!!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and I'm so glad it resonated! I haven't heard of Brene Brown but I will definitely look them up :)

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